Emergency Road Service Coverage

Road service coverage, also known as roadside assistance, is a service offered by most auto insurance companies. Adding this package to your insurance policy will cover you for essential services in the event of a breakdown, with the insurance company helping you to get back on the road or to transport your car to a garage. 

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What Does Roadside Assistance Include?

Roadside assistance offers a few basic services and, in the event of a breakdown, can help you get back on the road. These services include:

  • Call Out: Whatever the reason, if your car breaks down and you have emergency roadside assistance, you can simply make a call and a recovery vehicle will be sent to your location. 
  • Flat Tire: Stranded by the side of the road because of a punctured tire? The roadside assistance provider will come out, change your tire using your spare, and get you going again.  It’s worth noting, however, that this service will generally not cover tire changes for motorcycles.
  • Towing: The main goal of roadside assistance is to get your car going again. If the service provider fails to do that, they will tow your car to a nearby mechanic. Your insurance company will set a limit regarding how far your car can be towed and if it is towed to a location within this limit, you won’t be charged. If you want it taken to a specific garage or you’re stranded far away from the nearest mechanic, they will still tow the car, but you’ll need to pay a fee.
  • Fuel Delivery: If you run out of fuel at the side of the road, your roadside assistance program will arrange for some fuel to be taken to your location. In most cases, you will be charged for this fuel, but some programs will cover the cost up to a limit.
  • Battery Jump-Start: If your battery is flat this service can get it going again. However, it doesn’t apply to all vehicles and may not be possible with hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Lockout service: A lockout service is required when a driver has locked their keys in their car or can’t get in the vehicle for some other reason. Roadside assistance services will often use a tool known as a pump wedge to create a gap in the door through which a long tool can be used to pop the lock. This allows them to gain access to the vehicle without causing any damage to the door or paintwork.
  • Locksmith Service: It’s not always possible to gain access to a vehicle using the aforementioned method, and if the roadside service professional can’t access the vehicle, they will call for a locksmith service. Many roadside assistance providers will not cover this additional cost or will only cover a small percentage of it. Check your policy for more information about this add-on.
  • Extrication or Winching: If the vehicle becomes stuck, this service will help to pull it out and get you going again.

Should I Get Emergency Road Service Coverage?

Emergency roadside assistance is a useful option to have on your car insurance policy. If you breakdown, you can request assistance with a simple phone call and be back on the road again in a couple of hours. But it isn’t always worthwhile and whether you need it or not may depend on how you answer the following questions:

Commute and Driving Habits

If you don’t drive more than a few miles every day and never go more than a few miles from a repair shop, you can probably skip the roadside assistance. In such cases, it will be easier and cheaper to call your local shop and ask them to help you out.

It’s important to remember that not getting roadside assistance coverage doesn’t mean you’ll be stranded and helpless in the event of a breakdown. It’s not a case of “roadside assistance or nothing”. You can still call for help following a breakdown and if you live in built-up and easily accessible areas, it’s probably cheaper than paying for a premium service you may never need.

Conversely, if you take long drives in sparsely occupied areas and are dozens of miles from any repair facility, it may pay for itself in time.

Age of Vehicle

If you have a new car, you probably already have a roadside assistance program with your manufacturer. We have discussed a couple of these in the next section, but generally, they last for a fixed period of time or number of miles and will cover you if the car breaks down. Furthermore, because it’s a new car, it’s much less likely to breakdown in the first place.

Paying for Convenience or Saving Every Cent

Ultimately, the biggest deciding factor here is whether or not you’re happy to pay for convenience or will do everything you can to save. If you’re the sort of person who will happily take half an hour out of their day to save a few dollars on a purchase, and none of the above applies to you, roadside assistance coverage can be avoided.

But if you value convenience over anything else and want the peace of mind that comes from having this cover and the simplicity that it provides when you need it, it’s a worthwhile addition.

Do I Have Roadside Assistance?

Check your auto insurance policy to see if you have roadside assistance. If not, you can contact your auto insurance company to add it to your policy. They will talk you through the possible add-ons and standard coverage options, including towing services, delivery of gas, and flat tire changes.

But before you rush off to purchase this emergency service, make sure you check to see if you have it already. 

Roadside assistance is offered by many premium credit cards and auto insurance clubs, such as the AAA. It is also provided be some car manufacturers. To give you an idea of just how widespread this coverage is and to help you find the right provider, take a look at the list below:

  • Basic Credit Cards: Pay-per-use roadside assistance coverage is available on most Visa credit cards and Mastercards. It was also offered on many American Express credit cards, before being phased out at the beginning of 2020. With these services, you pay a flat fee (typically around $70) when you need to use the service.
  • Premium Credit Cards: Many visa credit cards, including Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and a few airline cards offered by United, have roadside emergency cover as standard. You can use this cover when you need it and for whatever service you require, with a cap of $50 per time and a limit of 4 uses per year.
  • Tesla: Electric vehicles and other high-tech cars are a little more temperamental and require specific skills and services. That’s why Tesla offers a complimentary roadside assistance service for the first 50,000 miles on all Tesla vehicles. The services are mainly limited to towing, as there isn’t much else they can do, but as long as you’re under that 50,000-mile limit and have owned the car for less than 4 years, you won’t need to pay.
  • General Motors: Another complimentary emergency roadside service provider, GM offers cover for all GM vehicle owners if they have owned the car for less than 4 years and driven fewer than 70,000 miles. Services such as a tow truck callout and fuel delivery are covered.
  • State Farm: A low-cost policy add-on that will cover you for all of the basics, including winching, towing, fuel delivery, lockouts, and more.
  • Allstate: Pay $125 every time you use the service to tow a vehicle. All services, including winching and fuel delivery, are provided.
  • AAA: Three different levels of roadside assistance services are provided: Basic, Plus, and Premier. Costs range from around $50 to $130 per year. Car can be towed for up to 100 miles to a repair shop of your choice, and other basic services are also provided.
  • GEICO: A cheap roadside coverage option is available for all policyholders with comprehensive coverage. This service will tow the car for up to 100 miles and help with lockouts, fuel delivery, and other basics.

Bottom Line: Weighing Up the Pros and Cons

Roadside assistance is a useful service, but only if you can actually benefit from it and find an affordable option. You can add this service to auto insurance quotes to determine affordability and check with credit card providers, auto clubs, and car manufacturers to make sure you don’t already have it and can’t get better coverage elsewhere.